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Anorak | China and the EU check your toilet for signs of illegal drug use

China and the EU check your toilet for signs of illegal drug use

by | 20th, July 2018

To China, where a wonk is hiding in your toilet bowl checking your poo and wee for signs of banned substances. Well, soon. for now the burgers have gotten only so far as checking sewerage for levels of narcotics. They want to see if anti-drugs campaigns are working. Chinese dictator / king / president for life Xi Jinping thinks human waste surveillance programs are just dandy:

Zhang Lei, an environmental policy researcher at Renmin University in Beijing and a collaborator with Li, notes that WBE studies are a more objective way of measuring whether government initiatives to reduce drug use in the community are working. She says that solely relying on traditional methods of monitoring changes in drug use, such as the number of arrests of users or the number of drugs being seized by police, can be misleading because they are indirect measures. “WBE offers an unequivocal measure of the effectiveness of efforts,” says Zhang.

Don’t most drugs users just go in a bush or their trousers?

Li and his team put this to the test when they measured two popular synthetic drugs, methamphetamine and ketamine, in waste water across China two years after local and national agencies launched campaigns to crack down on drug use and manufacturing in 2013. Zhang’s team found that following these initiatives, methamphetamine use dropped by 42% and ketamine use decreased by 67%. Li thinks the drop in drug use is a result of police campaigns.

That’s a huge impact. Can it be that drugs enforcement initiatives in China re so fantastically effective? Or can it be that the people who measure the poo are talking crap?

This year the EU drugs agency EMCDDA checked the sewers in 56 cities in 19 European countries. It turns out that Barcelona is the sewer cocaine capital of Europe, just ahed of Zurich and Antwerp. Amsterdam is number one for MDMA. Germany leads the amphetamine league table. The EMCDDA admits its tests “cannot provide information on prevalence and frequency of use, main classes of users, and purity of the drugs”.

Just wait til they link it to your DNA.

Spotter: Nature.com



Posted: 20th, July 2018 | In: News, Technology Comment | TrackBack | Permalink